TES publishes Breslin letter on the need to keep governance local

Wednesday 10th August 2016

Many thanks to the Times Educational Supplement for publishing my recent letter on the future of school governance (TES, 29th July 2016), virtually unedited.

Thanks also to those of you who have tweeted or retweeted statements from it. My report, ‘Governance in the Academies Age’, will be published by the RSA this autumn.

I represent the original text below:

Dear Editor

Jacqueline Baxter (“Schools now ask governors: what can you offer us?” 22 July) is absolutely right that the “whole notion of local knowledge is vital to good governance” and her findings chime with those that we are uncovering in a new scoping study at the RSA, Governance in the Academies Age, which reports this autumn. Our fear is that we have allowed the appropriate and necessary search for a more professional approach to governance, and the engagement of more professionals in governance, to blind us to the fact that this expertise may already exist on our doorstep and in our communities, and to misguided questions about the role of parent (and staff) governors in the process.

The loss of local (and not just parental) voice, or its marginalization into a series of less influential forums, is something we should be concerned about for two reasons: first, locally based governors do much more than just govern – they give voice to, provide insight from and enhance connectedness with a school’s community; second, the post-White Paper rush to a particular form of ‘MAT-isation’ threatens a distancing of governance from the governed, and with this a genuine loss of influence and engagement that may make governance itself less attractive.

These outcomes, as we shall argue in our report, are not inevitable and the new terrain may offer advantages over what has gone before, but the prospect of a newly detached, albeit ‘professionalised’, governance has, as Dr. Baxter’s research makes clear, sounded a warning bell. We ignore it at our peril. The challenge is to frame models of governance in our schools, and across our public services, that are not local or professional, but both.

Dr. Tony Breslin FRSA

Project Lead, Governance in the Academies Age
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

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